Want To Build An Open Source Hardware And Software Robot? : Page 2 of 4

CES 2020 boasts of at least one open source robot, but what does that really mean?

Open Source Hardware

Open source typically relates to software, which is easy to create, compile and distribute. However, the open source model also extends to hardware but with some changes.

Open hardware for robotics focuses on open source mechanical and electrical hardware, including design specifications of the robot such as schematics, blueprints, logic diagrams, CAD drawing files and the like. Like open source software, the hardware source materials are available for modification or enhancement by anyone under permissive licenses. Users with access to the tools that can read and manipulate these source files can update and improve the code that serves as the baseline for a physical device.

Open hardware platforms tailored for robotics are numerous. Many run only on Arduino and Raspberry Pi platforms. But there are a few noticeable ones that run on other hardware. Here are a few that are similar in functionality – i.e., using a manipulating arm – to the Reachy robot mentioned earlier:

  • Poppy Humano, by Generation Robots - The humanoid, bipedal Poppy runs the Ubuntu OS on an octa-core Odroid-XU4 small board computer. The kit includes servomotors and 3D printed parts. The hand grippers may be controlled by a separate Raspberry Pi board. It is all fully open source.
  • Rapiro, by Switch Science - Another humanoid, bipedal robot is Rapiro, which typically ships with a control board that can be programmed via the micro-USB port using the Arduino IDE. Adding Raspberry Pi enables additional sensors, WiFi and Bluetooth control, and a camera with image recognition capabilities. An abundance of servos provide movement to the neck, waist, arms, and feet. Rapiro can walk and dance, and its dual grippers can pick up light objects, to grip a pencil and type on a keyboard.
  • TurleBot3, by Robotis – TurtleBot3 is the 3rd-Generation of the TurtleBot series. The development of the robot is still guided by Open Robotics, a part of the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSBR). TurtleBot3runs uses open source Ubuntu while running on Raspberry Pi 3 or Intel Joule based compute boards (now discontinued by Intel). The robot features a Robotis OpenCR board for controlling the motor servos, as well as touch, infrared, color, and IMU sensors. The board can run Arduino 32-bit, Arm Cortex-M7 microcontroller. 

The afore mentioned Open Robotics supports the development, distribution, and adoption of open software and hardware for use in robotics. The organization offers two open source products: ROS and Gazebo. The Robot Operating System (ROS) is a set of software libraries and tools for building robot applications. Gazebo accurately simulates indoor and outdoor robots. You get a physics engine, high-quality graphics, and graphical interfaces. And it's all open source.

Image Source: Poppy Project / M. Lapeyre

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